Your palm was the last to slap against the DEAD. When the beeping finally ceased, you and the three men that accompanied you through [Door 5] heaved out a sigh of relief. Your reprieve was far too short lived; soon enough, three (well, two) pitiful gazes rested on your drenched form.
You grimaced, refusing to acknowledge the crimson liquid on your clothes and arm, even as the bile in your stomach churned uneasily. You'd come close enough to the source before, and you had no intention of seeing that mangled body again. With a shaky sigh, you turned to the rest of your group, choosing to focus on Seven; his eyes were the furthest away from the floor.
His gaze brought your mind to the memories that led you to the terrible hallway.
Snake, the blind man, was kind enough (after the even more gracious prying from his sister Clover) to inform the eight of you trapped on this mysterious ship of how exactly this masochistic "game" was to work.
In theory, it was vastly simple. You were to run through the door after activating the timer, deactivate your bracelet within eighty-one seconds, and rinse and repeat until [Door 9] was found. The game's complexity intensified when the bombs in the intestinal system were added, but even then you were able to keep your composure.
You were a woman who relied profoundly on reason and evidence. A mathematician by heart and practice, your analytical grasp on the world was your vice. There was no proof to support any sort of explosives within your body, thus you were eager to volunteer your group to test drive the door verification system.
Junpei was none too eager to be assigned with you. He accused you of trying to sabotage him; you were the one who picked the groups, thus it had to be a trap.
"She's out of her damn mind. I'm not running straight into a death trap that a kidnapper set for us!"
"What do you suggest? We wait for the nine hours to pass us and drown in god knows what ocean?" Your words made the entire group fall silent, but you could still feel apprehension in the air. Your annoyance grew as strong as their nerves, and you spoke again, this time to the entire party.
"If we don't move, we'll all be dead in nine hours. Completely erased from existence. We've been given the opportunity to challenge our fate, and you want to stay in this room because we might die if we pass through the doors?"
Your words gave the air a weight that had not been there before. Junpei fidgeted before you, one of his feet kicking the ground in front of him pensively. A smooth voice broke the silence.
"Well, that settles the matter. Any further objections? I believe Novem has made our choice quite clear..." The white-haired male walked toward the RED, nodding to his companions that he knew had not yet followed him to the door.
Clover’s voice interrupted the sound of Snake’s loafers clicking against the floor. “I-I’m not going without you!" The tall male turned to face her, and his expression silenced the pinkette immediately.
You were the first to follow, your confident posture doing little to hide the fact that you were proud of your persuasive skills. In that moment, you’d wished that Snake had eyes to spot the grateful look you sent him for his words. When you were close enough to him, he nodded, sending a small smile in your direction.
Perhaps his lack of sight wasn’t so terrible. At least he missed the blush on your awestruck face.
By the time you were through noticing the strong features of the taller man’s face, Junpei and Seven were at your side, ready to proceed. You looked at them, admittedly a bit nervous. Nine seconds was not a lot of time to dart through heavy metal doors, but you were determined to do so with a one-hundred percent survival rate.
“We’ll have to be fast. Nine seconds to enter, eighty-one to deactivate.” Your voice has the consistency of an automated machine. It was calculative and compelling. Seven let out an indignant noise before speaking.
“We get it. Let’s get this shit started…” The worry in his tone did not go unnoticed.
With a huff, you slapped your palm against the RED, a shrill beep causing the more uneasy in the group to jump. After you followed Snake, his hand languidly pressed against the computer generated grid on the device. Seven and Junpei begrudgingly followed suit.
“All that is left is to pull the lever? Any volunteers? Don’t be shy.” Snake’s sarcasm almost made you snort, but you bit your tongue to hold in your laughter. Seven and Junpei were not nearly as amused as you were. Snake shrugged from the lack of response and pulled the metal pole that signaled your entry into this game.
“Proceed quickly. If we are all not in before nine seconds, those who made it in will soon die.” Snake’s words further charged the adrenaline coursing through your body. Before the door had even fully swung open, you were charging through the gap.
“Novem, wa–!!” Junpei’s words catching in his throat caused you to cock your head back at him. His face blanched, as well as Seven’s. They looked severely sick.
Why aren’t they following…?
Soon enough you felt a slippery patch of the ground beneath your feet, but you were going far too fast to stop. You landed on your side in the crimson liquid that smelt too metallic for comfort. When you regained your senses from your fall, you peered in the center of the pool of fresh blood.
Your heart stopped.
A body–no, what was left of a body lay sprinkled on the carpet and walls. Chunks of flesh were splayed in a cascading pattern all over the hallways, some even stuck to the roof. Its intestines lay like a waterfall that began at its gut and went out onto the pristine carpet. The only thing that remained entirely intact near the corpse was a bloodstained bracelet with a bright digital blue skull on the face.
A blood curdling scream left your petrified form. You clawed desperately at the carpet behind you, trying to do anything in your power to escape the sight before you.
Your scream urged Snake to move faster. “What’s there?! Regardless, we need to move! If the door closes, she will die!” He ran through the door, grabbing Junpei and Seven’s wrists to ensure that they would follow.
With Snake's disgusted cry of ‘Why does this place reek of blood?!’ over you screams, [Door 5] slammed shut.
A stern call of your codename snapped you back to reality, and to the atrocious feeling in your stomach. You couldn’t hold down the vitriol any longer. With your face to the floor, you threw up right in front of your feet.
“Shit.” Junpei came as close to you as he could without crossing over the body. When his foot landed in the pool of blood, he spoke, horrified, “W-what the fuck happened here?”
“He blew up,” was Seven’s detached response. “Right from the intestines…” His words sent another wave of nausea through you.
A bomb…in his intestines…just like–
You dry heaved, causing the three men to turn your way in concern yet again. This time, Snake broke the grave silence. “It would appear that Zero has left us…evidence of the truth in his rules.” You did your best to focus on his voice, turning around to face him weakly. His smooth tone, while you were unsure exactly how, made you feel at ease in this horrible situation.
“E-even so, we achieved a one-hundred percent survival rate. We should not let that go to waste.” Your words surprised them. In the frenzy of your fall, you all failed to realize that you did it. None of you ended up like the pile of flesh on the floor.
You walked mechanically to the pristine section of the hallway where there was no further trace of the exploded corpse. Without turning around to face them (or the body), you spoke. “Can we please get going? I smell strongly enough of blood. I don’t want to be near…”
That was more than enough for them to grasp the meaning of your words. Snake was the first to follow, standing off to your side. Junpei and Seven rounded the rear as the four of you walked toward the door marked:
The shrill scraping of sandy toilet paper and the thrum of piano keys could be heard from the 1st CLASS cabin bedroom. You and Snake had been left to “investigate” (you could feel their wary gazes on you whenever you got up–Snake was babysitting) this section of your current prison, while Junpei and Seven scoped the rest of the room.
You worked the tissue diligently against your stained skin. It felt far too rough and was starting to scratch you, but it was all you had to cleanse yourself.
Better than murky bathwater, at least…
“Novem, the least you could do for yourself is not be so coarse with the tissue. You will surely bleed at the rate you are toiling.” Your gaze moved from your reddened arm to Snake’s perfectly postured back. You fought against the small grin that threatened to form on your face from his concern, but it broke through anyway. His kindness toward you, a complete stranger, was so surprising, so calming…
“Besides, I can barely hear the piano over your incessant scraping.”
…so unconcerned with your health.
With a huff, you threw the tissue on the bed and rose to your feet. You marched confidently to the piano bench, bumping Snake with your hip as you sat down. As the grey-haired male slid over to accommodate you, he sent an intrigued smile your way.
“Can I help you?”
Without responding, you began pressing keys idly, humming the sound that each one made. It was a stubborn, futile act; you had no knowledge of the piano or its keys, but pretending was better than sitting by doing nothing.
"Do you plan to keep ignoring me? That will not do much for our morale if we wish to escape."
"We won't get any closer to escape if I sit idly and do nothing." His gaze was planted on your form. You squirmed under his scrutiny; he was supposed to be blind. Why did it feel like he was staring at you?
"...I don't know how to play the piano but...please let me help you...?"
A long silence followed your plea. Snake's eyebrows furrowed as his languid digits traced the aged piano keys. "I am afraid I have already relocated most of the notes...I could teach you, but I am certain that would only bore you. It would not be a very accurate lesson either."
You hummed in understanding, biting back a sigh. You'd never felt so positively useless in your whole life. All three of your comrades contributed in finding a way out of the room, and all you'd been able to do was clean yourself up and stay out of their way.
To distract yourself from the bubbling anger rising in your form, you kept pressing keys and humming their tone. You may not have known each note’s name, but you could certainly figure out where the sounds originated.
Not long into your experiment did you feel a familiar gaze settle on you. You fought the rising flush to your cheeks; even though he couldn't see your blush, he was certain to feel the change in temperature to his right.
"Am I making you uncomfortable, Novem?" Your inner battle was futile– he'd noticed.
“N-no! Why do you ask?”
“You are rather tense. Is something the matter?” You turned to face him, expression stern as you studied his half-lidded eyes. His irises were a steady shade of pale white, with little movement.
“You’ve been staring at me. It's…how are you doing that?” A smile donned his features. Snake chuckled lightly before addressing your question.
“I can assure you, I have not. I am blind, remember?” The airy tone in his voice sounded mocking to you. You took a breath, ready to object his statement, but he beat you to it. “You do not believe me.” Another knowing smile, another of your nerves set off.
“No, I most certainly don’t! I can feel you staring!” Snake chuckled, turning his entire body toward you. You mimicked him, straddling the piano bench to face him. Even in this less than comfortable position, he had a height advantage over you.
“Would you like me to prove it to you?”
Your eyebrow quirked of its own accord, and you scoffed, crossing your arms over your chest. “And just how do you plan to do that?”
“Let’s have a staring contest.”
“…excuse me?” When he repeated himself, words enunciated and slowed down, you cut him off. You understood what he proposed just fine, it just…didn’t make any sense.
“A staring contest,” A quick nod from him, “With a blind man? Isn’t that a little…”
“Unfair? Precisely. If you win, it will be evident that my staring abilities are nonexistent, and that I was not staring at you.”
The concept of having a staring contest with a blind man sounded foolish; you were sure to win! Even so, he sounded confident in wanting to go through with the game. What was he trying to prove? You were dying to find out.
Who were you to deny the wishes of a blind man, anyhow?
With a mock sigh, you nodded, sticking your hand out for a shake. “So be it. A handshake for good luck before we begin?”
A smirk adorned Snake’s pointed features, and as his hand grasped yours, you blushed. His palms were smooth, and his hands chiseled to what seemed like perfection (to you, at least). When you pulled your hand away, you felt his thumb stroke your knuckles. You gasped, your blush erupting into a full flush.
W-what the hell kind of game is he getting at?
Your eyes scrunched shut, annoyed at your admiration for a man you’d met in such a dire circumstance. You brought your hands up to fan at your hot cheeks. In your haste to cool down, you missed the smile on Snake’s face.
“Ready?” You waited for no sign before you begun counting. “One, two…three!”
Your eyes snapped open, and you locked your gaze with Snake’s pale white irises. It seemed as though he was actually trying to hold up his eyelids a bit more, to truly participate.
You felt your eyes watering, but your resolve to win never faltered. You felt the initial wave of your watery eyes subside, and felt assurance take over your form.
You were going to win.
Snake seemed just as pressed to beat you, but it seemed that his eyelids were falling of their own volition. You bit back the triumphant smile that twitched at your lips.
It was then that the tides turned against you.
Without hesitation, Snake’s body moved forward. You reflexively backed away, but the edge of the piano bench halted your journey backwards. Soon enough, Snake’s knees touched your own, and his hands slithered to grasp the end of the bench, holding your body in place.
The game you’d been so certain you’d win was completely washed out of your mind as you noticed the finer attributes of Snake’s face right before you. His jaw was angular and strong, his nose pointed and regal, and his brows smooth and framing his half-lidded eyes perfectly. Your eyes focused the most on his lips, which were a brighter pink than you’d envisioned for such a pale person.
His lips moved closer to yours, and your eyes instinctually fluttered shut. When you felt his lips ever so slightly graze your cheek, stopping at your ear, you shuddered.
“It appears that your eyes have closed. That would make me the victor, would it not?”
Your eyes snapped open, your jaw falling slack from the reality of his words. He pulled you away from the edge of the bench to ensure you wouldn’t fall over from shock before he rose, brushing off his periwinkle waistcoat.
You sputtered wildly; face beet red and eyebrows furrowed. While you desperately searched for the words to curse him for flustering you, he spoke yet again.
“I am quite disappointed that you lost so easily. At the very least, I do not have to worry about the scent of blood trailing onto my clothes.”
His words stopped you mid stammer, and your expression softened as the fact that Snake just made a joke set in. Laughter left your lips as you finally accepted defeat.
You stood up, bending your knees to restore circulation before looking at Snake. He was on his way out of the room when you called to him.
“I’d like a rematch, you know! After I’ve cleaned up, of course.”
Snake paused his footing. He kept his back toward you, but his tone had more than enough mirth for you to figure out the expression on his face.
“I look forward to it.”